I read a book

Hello. The good news is I’m feeling slightly less dead then I felt yesterday. So that’s a good thing.

Again, alcohol be bad. Yuck.

I just finished reading this book by the Australian author Christos Tsiolkas, who you may or may not know as being the guy who wrote “The Slap”. This novel was called “Dead Europe”.

I enjoyed it for the way it was written. Like “The Slap”, the novel kind of enveloped you into a comfortable fog where you were completely drawn into this world being painted around you. I love it when books have the power to do that.
Beyond the consistent poetry of prose that  kept the story flowing and the pages turning, this novel in parts really moved me. Again, it’s a glorious part of reading, or absorbing any kind of art, when you find yourself having an emotional reaction to what you read. My favorite aspect of this was definitely the love between the protagonist and his partner. It was a really moving component of the story and one which, on completing the book, I skimmed through to revisit.

So, for the emotional value and the quality of the writing, this book was spectacular.

However.

I will never, ever, EVER, allow my mother to read it. Not so much because she’s slightly prudish in her attitude towards sex and swearwords, but also because it would be somewhat embarrassing for her to read it and know that I, her just eighteen year old daughter, had also read it. I’m not sure I could quite look her in the eye again. I imagine, it would be kind of like someone looking at your internet browser history and discovering you’d been looking at porn.

In short, there is a LOT of controversial elements to this novel. WWII comes up, as does the holocaust and the jewish population. However, nothing is tiptoed around, no attitude is suppressed, no point of view not explored. I mean this quite literally.
In our very politically correct society, the extreme anti-semitic  perspectives conveyed in the novel from certain characters is very confronting. As is the blunt exploration of sexual desires, touching upon paedophilia and child prostitution, bestiality, incest, and towards the end the protagonist begins to feed off blood for some reason. Blood as in a nasty cut, and also blood as in the monthly cycle of females.

It gets a bit weird at this point, but the confronting nature of the story gets caught up in the addictive storytelling to the point where the racism and sex and drugs and the sudden vampire tendencies kind of wash over you a bit. Like I said, there are tender moments of the story that stand out, and the writing style is quite beautiful. It’s a complicated story that is quite an intense experience.

The last point i have to make is that, as an atheist, for the first chapter or so this novel had me on edge. It was the extremely strong religious themes that did it. I haven’t associated with the world of religion for a long time so this element was both slightly confusing and a little bit frustrating. What I didn’t understand I just had to accept, as there were no explanations, and having my beliefs questioned is, like the other themes in the novel, confronting. But by the time i’d settled down into reading, this doscomfort passed.

And I think that’s where the beauty of the novel exists. Your assumptions, your beliefs, your first world PC safety net, everything is thrown up in the air, every issue relentlessly pushed. Nothing is swept under the carpet, nothing is too much. These are the realities of the world and you’re forced to face them.

“Dead Europe” is confronting, is moving, and is intense as it is poetic.

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